COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ

Have a question about the COVID-19 vaccines?

Choose a category below to find the answer.


 

Top 10 most frequently asked questions

#1 Where can I get the vaccine? 
  • There are hundreds of vaccine providers throughout the state. Here are some ways to find a vaccine provider near you: 
    • Visit our vaccine finder page for a map and list of providers. Many providers take walk-ins. You can contact any provider directly for more information.
    • Check your local pharmacy or participating CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Safeway, Cardinal, City Market/King Soopers, and Costco locations. 
    • The state-run mobile COVID-19 vaccination clinics are making stops in all four corners of the state. You can book an appointment online. 
    • Local public health agencies are organizing pop-up clinics all over the state with different community partners. Visit your local public health agency’s website or social media channel for more information about community clinics in your area.
    • If you need help finding out where you can receive a vaccine or who to contact in your community, call 1-877-COVAXCO (1-877-268-2926) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. MT. Multiple languages are available. The call center will be closed on Nov. 25, Dec. 25, and Jan. 1 for the holidays.

 

#2 How do we know that the vaccines are safe?
  • All authorized COVID-19 vaccines are going through the most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history. 
  • Millions of people in the United States have safely received a vaccine and are now protected from COVID-19.
  • Tens of thousands of people volunteered to help test the vaccines in clinical trials. These clinical trials showed that the vaccines are safe and work well. The vaccines met the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) rigorous scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and quality.
  • Learn more about vaccine safety.

 

#3 Do I still need to wear a mask after getting vaccinated?
  • While it’s rare, some people do get COVID-19 even after they’ve been fully vaccinated. Wearing a mask can help protect you and other people from breakthrough cases of COVID-19. Read the CDC’s current guidance for mask-wearing after vaccination.
  • Masks are required in certain public indoor spaces, even for fully vaccinated people. Learn more about where you need to wear a mask in Colorado on CDPHE’s mask guidance webpage.
  • If you are fully vaccinated and you have been exposed to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, you should get tested three to five days after exposure. Wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following exposure or until you get your test result. If your result is negative, you can stop wearing a mask. If your result is positive, follow instructions on how to isolate
  • People are considered fully vaccinated: 
    • Two weeks after their second dose in a two-dose series, like the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. 
    • Two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, like Janssen’s (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine.
  • If you have a condition or are taking medications that weaken your immune system, you may NOT be fully protected even if you are fully vaccinated. Talk to your healthcare provider. Even after vaccination, you may need to continue taking all precautions.

 

#4 Can I get COVID-19 from a vaccine?
  • No. The vaccines don’t contain the COVID-19 virus, and it is not possible to get COVID-19 from a vaccine. 
  • You may feel some side effects like fever, chills, and fatigue. The COVID-19 vaccines use temporary pieces of genetic code from the virus to stimulate your body’s immune response. This cannot cause COVID-19. The goal of each vaccine is to provide your body with the tools it needs to fight the COVID-19 virus if you were to get infected. 
  • Learn more about vaccine side effects and immunity in this FAQ. 

 

#5 Is it safe to get the vaccine if I am pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning a pregnancy?
  • Yes. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and your baby during the pandemic.
  • Pregnant people are more likely to get very sick if they become infected with COVID-19. Getting sick with COVID-19 can lead to serious pregnancy complications, including complications that can result in death.
  • COVID-19 vaccines are safe for pregnant people and people who are trying to become pregnant. The vaccines help keep you from getting sick. They won’t harm your baby or make it harder for you to get pregnant.
  • Learn more about vaccines and pregnancy at the CDC’s website.
     

#6 Is the vaccine free?
  • Yes, the vaccine is free. Providers should not ask you to pay for the vaccine or other administrative costs, even if you don’t have health insurance. 
  • If you do have insurance, your provider may seek reimbursement from your health insurance company, but you should not be charged. 
  • In the unlikely event that your provider requires payment for your vaccine appointment, you should ask questions about what you are being charged for and why. You should ask for an itemized bill or receipt from the provider and then seek reimbursement from your insurance company if you have one.
  • If a vaccine provider is making you pay, you can report them by filling out the following form: covid19.colorado.gov/VaccineConcerns. You can also call 1-877-COVAXCO (1-877-268-2926) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. MT. Multiple languages are available. The call center will be closed on Nov. 25, Dec. 25, and Jan. 1 for the holidays.
  • If you have problems with your insurance company, you can contact the Division of Insurance by phone at 303-894-7490 or by email at DORA_Insurance@state.co.us.
  • If someone is making you pay for a vaccine or a vaccine appointment, it may be a scam. You can report potential vaccine scams to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office at stopfraudcolorado.gov.
  • Learn more about getting the vaccine in this FAQ. 

 

#7 Do I need to be a U.S. citizen to get a vaccine? 
  • No. You do not need to be a U.S. citizen, and you will not need to prove lawful presence to get a COVID-19 vaccine in Colorado. 
  • The Department of Homeland Security announced that vaccination sites will be considered sensitive locations. This means that ICE will not carry out enforcement activities at or near vaccination sites.
  • State and local public health agencies will never share your information for any immigration or law enforcement purposes. And receiving the COVID-19 vaccine will not count against you in any public charge determinations.
  • If a vaccine provider is making you show identification, you can report them by filling out the following form: covid19.colorado.gov/VaccineConcerns. You can also call 1-877-COVAXCO (1-877-268-2926) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. MT. Multiple languages are available. The call center will be closed on Nov. 25, Dec. 25, and Jan. 1 for the holidays.
  • Learn more about getting the vaccine in this FAQ. 

 

#8 How were the vaccines developed so quickly? 
  • In developing vaccines for COVID-19, researchers had to work quickly, but not at the risk of anyone’s safety. Medical researchers did not cut any corners or skip any steps. Safety and effectiveness are always the top priorities. 
  • The timeline for developing COVID-19 vaccines was possible for several reasons: 
    • Researchers used years of previous research on other viruses and vaccines. They didn’t have to start from scratch.
    • Everyone involved dedicated all their resources and time to developing a COVID-19 vaccine. This includes research institutions, pharmaceutical companies, government agencies, and philanthropic organizations. 
    • Many governments around the world, including the U.S. government, and private funders invested in the vaccine, which allowed pharmaceutical companies to focus on research right away. 
    • Because of the emergency presented by the pandemic, researchers developed the vaccines on parallel tracks, meaning that they completed the necessary steps at the same time or with some overlap. They didn’t have to wait between steps like they usually do. No steps were skipped in the process of developing the COVID-19 vaccines. 
  • Learn more about vaccine safety in this FAQ. 

 

#9 Will the vaccines work against the delta variant of COVID-19?
  • Yes. People who are fully vaccinated are protected from the delta variant. 
  • Getting vaccinated also protects others around you. Current data suggests that vaccination reduces the spread of infection, leading to fewer opportunities for new variants to develop and spread.

 

#10 What should I do if I lose my vaccine card?


 

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine

What types of COVID-19 vaccines are available? 
  • Three COVID-19 vaccines are available: Pfizer, Moderna, and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized these vaccines for emergency use.
  • The Pfizer vaccine is available for people age 5 and older. The Moderna and Janssen vaccines are available for adults age 18 and older.
  • On August 23, 2021, the FDA fully approved the Pfizer vaccine for people age 16 and older. 
  • The Pfizer vaccine will now be called Comirnaty (pronounced “koe-mir’-na-tee”). 
  • While Pfizer’s Comirnaty vaccine is the first COVID-19 vaccine to receive full approval, all available COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to be safe and effective. 
  • The Pfizer vaccine is still available for people age 5 to 15 under the FDA’s emergency use authorization.
  • The CDC has detailed information about each vaccine on their Different COVID-19 Vaccines page.  
     
Can children get the vaccine? 
  • Yes, children as young as 5 years old can get a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • CDC has authorized Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines for people age 5 and older. 
  • The Moderna and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccines are only authorized for adults 18 and up. 
  • For more information, visit CDPHE’s Vaccines for children and teens webpage.
     
How do I make a vaccine appointment for someone age 5-11? How can I make sure they get the correct dosage of Pfizer vaccine?
  • Right now, Pfizer COVID vaccines are the only approved vaccine for children age 5 to 11.
  • Most scheduling systems identify appointments specifically for children age 5 to 11. If you are unsure whether you are booking the right kind of vaccine appointment for your child, reach out to the vaccine provider for assistance.
  • Children age 5 to 11 years can now get a COVID-19 vaccine at pediatric clinics around the state. Find upcoming clinics for children
  • Beginning November 6, all mobile vaccination clinics will have vaccines for children age 5 to 11. Find an appointment at a mobile vaccination clinic near you.
  • Some doctor’s offices and pharmacies are also now taking vaccine appointments for children. Find a list of COVID-19 vaccine providers for children age 5 to 11. We will add more providers to this list as they open up appointments.
  • Many more providers will start taking COVID-19 vaccine appointments for children age 5 to 11 soon. Please check back for updates.
     
How do I make a vaccine appointment for someone age 12-17? How can I make sure they get the correct dosage of Pfizer vaccine?

 

How many doses are the COVID-19 vaccines?
  • The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine requires one dose. The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines require two doses. Pfizer doses should be given 21 days apart and Moderna doses should be given 28 days apart.
  • If it isn’t possible to get the second dose on the right day, the second dose can be given early, up to 4 days before it is due. Additionally, the second dose can be given as late as 42 days (6 weeks) after the first dose. This is called a grace period. 
  • The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are not meant to be interchangeable. The second dose of any COVID-19 vaccine should be the same vaccine product as the first dose.
  • Some people might need an additional or booster dose to be fully protected. Learn more about who should get an additional or booster dose.

 

What’s the difference between an additional dose and a booster dose?
  • Additional doses are for people with weakened immune systems. Studies show that some people who are immunocompromised don’t build enough protection after receiving two doses of mRNA vaccines. The third dose completes the primary vaccination series and helps protect people with weakened immune systems. 
  • Booster doses help give you extra protection from COVID-19. Vaccine effectiveness varies by vaccine product and may decrease over time. A booster dose can help raise immunity levels. Booster doses are common practice in routine childhood vaccines and require multiple doses at specific intervals to be most effective. 
  • Learn more about additional and booster doses.

 

Do I need an additional dose? 
  • People who have a moderately to severely compromised immune system may benefit from an additional dose of mRNA vaccine to make sure they have enough protection against COVID-19. Studies show that some people who are immunocompromised don’t build adequate levels of protection after receiving two doses of mRNA vaccines.
  • People who are recommended to receive an additional dose include people who have:
    • Been receiving active cancer treatment for tumors or cancers of the blood.
    • Received an organ transplant and are taking medicine to suppress the immune system. 
    • Received a stem cell transplant within the last two years or are taking medicine to suppress the immune system. 
    • Moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (such as DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome). 
    • Advanced or untreated HIV infection. 
    • Active treatment with high-dose corticosteroids or other drugs that may suppress your immune response.
  • The additional dose should be the same vaccine product as the first two doses. However, an alternate mRNA dose can be used if that vaccine is not available.
  • Coloradans may self-report their moderate to severe immunocompromising conditions to vaccine providers in order to get an additional dose. 
  • Learn more about additional doses.

 

Who should get a booster dose? 
  • You should get a booster dose if you:
    • Are 18 or older and received your second dose of Pfizer or Moderna at least six months ago.
    • Are 18 or older and received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago.
Does my booster need to be the same kind of vaccine as my initial doses?
  • No. You can get any authorized vaccine for your booster dose.

 

Why do I need a booster dose?
  • Booster doses help give you extra protection from COVID-19. Vaccine effectiveness varies by vaccine product and may decrease over time. A booster dose can help raise immunity levels. Booster doses are common practice in routine childhood vaccines and require multiple doses at specific intervals to be most effective.

 

Where can I get a booster dose?
  • You can get a booster dose at any vaccine provider. No ID, insurance, or proof of medical history is required. Booster doses are free. You may self-report having a high risk condition to vaccine providers.

 

Can children get the vaccine? 
  • Yes, children as young as 5 years old can get a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • On November 2, 2021, the CDC authorized Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines for people age 5 and older.
  • The Moderna and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccines are only authorized for adults 18 and up. 
  • For more information, visit CDPHE’s Vaccines for children and teens webpage.

 

Is it safe to take my prescription medications on the same day I get vaccinated? 
  • Yes, it is fine to take all prescription drugs as usual. 

 

Should I take over-the-counter medication like Tylenol or Advil before getting vaccinated to help with the side effects? 
  • Avoid taking over-the-counter pain or fever medications before getting vaccinated. There is a theoretical possibility that doing so might reduce vaccine effectiveness. 
  • If it is normally safe for you to do so, you can take over-the-counter pain or fever medication after you receive the vaccine and once you start to feel side effects.  

Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as other vaccines?
  • Yes. COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccines may now be given at the same time, if needed, or close together. 
  • Your doctor may consider the types of vaccine, whether you are behind on recommended vaccines, and what kind of side effects the vaccines may have before deciding whether or not to give them together. Talk to your doctor about additional concerns you might have about getting more than one vaccine at the same time. 

 

Will I be able to get the vaccine at my doctor’s office or local pharmacy? 

 

I need a ride to my vaccine appointment. What are my options?
  • Mile High United Way’s Ride United program is providing access to free rides (up to 25 miles each way) to vaccination sites across Colorado. Dial 2-1-1 or visit 211colorado.org to learn more.
  • Uber and Lyft are offering free rides to vaccine provider locations. Use your smartphone to book a ride on the Uber and Lyft apps. 

 

I need help with child care while I get the vaccine or recover from side effects. What can I do?
  • As part of President Biden’s National Month of Action initiative, some child care centers are offering free child care for people getting vaccinated.
  • KinderCare and Learning Care Group are offering free child care to help parents and caregivers get vaccinated and recuperate. Call KinderCare at (866) 337-3105 or Learning Care Group at (833) 459-3557 for more information.
  • Many YMCA locations are also offering free child care during vaccination appointments. Contact your local YMCA for more details.

 

I am unable to leave my home to get a vaccine. Can I schedule an in-home vaccination visit? 
  • You can call 1-877-COVAXCO (1-877-268-2926) and an agent can help you register for an in-home vaccination. The call line is available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. MT and in multiple languages. If you are unable to make the call, a caregiver, family member, or friend can call on your behalf. The call center will be closed on Nov. 25, Dec. 25, and Jan. 1 for the holidays.
  • Know that arranging an in-home vaccination will take time to coordinate and the visit may be longer than if you got the vaccine through another site.

 

What should I do if I’m asked to pay for the vaccine?
  • The vaccine is free. Providers should not ask you to pay for the vaccine or other administrative costs, even if you don’t have health insurance. If you do have insurance, your provider may seek reimbursement from your health insurance company, but you should not be charged.
  • Providers are not allowed to turn you away, even if you don’t have health insurance. Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance are required to cover the cost of the COVID-19 vaccines. If you do not have health insurance or your health insurance does not cover vaccine administration fees, providers may seek reimbursement for your appointment through the Provider Relief Fund or the COVID-19 Coverage Assistance Fund through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). 
  • In the unlikely event that your provider requires payment for your vaccine appointment, you should ask questions about what you are being charged for and why. You should ask for an itemized bill or receipt from the provider and then seek reimbursement from your insurance company if you have one.
  • If a provider demands payment, you can report them by filling out the following form: covid19.colorado.gov/VaccineConcerns. You can also call 1-877-COVAXCO (1-877-268-2926) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. MT. Multiple languages are available. The call center will be closed on Nov. 25, Dec. 25, and Jan. 1 for the holidays.
  • If you encounter problems with your insurance company, you can contact the Division of Insurance by phone at 303-894-7490 or by email at DORA_Insurance@state.co.us.
  • If someone is making you pay for a vaccine or a vaccine appointment, it may be a scam. You can report potential vaccine scams to the Colorado Attorney General’s Office at stopfraudcolorado.gov.

 

How much of my personal information will I need to share to get the vaccine? 
  • Like other routine vaccinations, you will need to share some personal information with your vaccine provider when you get a COVID-19 vaccine. This may include your name, date of birth, and contact information. Your privacy is a top priority, and your information will not be used for anything other than vaccine distribution and follow-up information about the vaccine. 
  • For an example of a form you may be asked to fill out at your appointment, see the Colorado COVID-19 Vaccine Screening and Administration Form. This form includes a field for your insurance card number if you have one, but you should not be required to fill it out.
  • Sharing your identity and some of your medical history ensures that the vaccine is administered safely, effectively, and responsibly. Your individual immunization records are confidential, personal medical information, and public health will never share them publicly. 
  • The state health department maintains the Colorado Immunization Information System (CIIS), a confidential, population-based, secure computerized system that collects and consolidates individual-level vaccine and exemption data for Coloradans of all ages from a variety of sources. Health care providers have limited access to CIIS based on their need to input and access data for their patients. 
  • Under Colorado law, you can choose to remove your immunization information from CIIS at any time. This is called an opt-out. 
  • The state health department submits daily, anonymous COVID-19 vaccine administration data to the CDC as required. The state worked to ensure that no personally identifiable information like your name or full address will be shared with CDC.  

 

Will I need government-issued identification to prove my age, address, or name?
  • No. You do not need a government-issued ID like a driver’s license or passport to get the vaccine. Some medical forms may have a field to enter your social security number, but you are not required to complete it.
  • If a provider is requiring you to show identification in order to get vaccinated, you can submit a report by filling out the following form: covid19.colorado.gov/VaccineConcerns. You can also call 1-877-COVAXCO (1-877-268-2926) Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. MT. Multiple languages are available. The call center will be closed on Nov. 25, Dec. 25, and Jan. 1 for the holidays.

 

Do I have to be a full-time resident of Colorado to get vaccinated?
  • No. You do not need to be a full-time resident of Colorado, nor of a particular Colorado county, to be vaccinated in Colorado. 

 

Should I take a test to see if I am infected before getting the vaccine?
  • No. The CDC does not recommend getting tested before getting the vaccine. If you do not have any symptoms and have not been recently exposed to COVID-19, there is no need to get a test before deciding whether or not to get vaccinated.

 

Do I have to get the second dose of the vaccine at the same location where I got my first dose?
  • We strongly recommend that you get both doses from the same vaccine provider. Doing so ensures that you are getting the same vaccine product for both doses at the right time. However, if you can’t schedule your second dose at the same provider, you may receive your second dose from any provider that offers the same type of vaccine.
  • Note that the second dose should be the same vaccine product as the first dose. 

 

What happens if I get my second dose too early or late?
  • Make every effort to receive the second dose of your COVID-19 vaccine exactly 21 days after the first dose of Pfizer and 28 days after the first dose of Moderna. Plan accordingly so that you are able to get the second dose of your vaccine at the right time.
  • If it isn’t possible to get the second dose on the right day, the second dose can be given up to 42 days after the first dose. The second dose can also be given up to four days early. This is called a grace period. 
  • If the second dose is accidentally given outside the grace period, there is no need to restart the vaccination series.

 

What happens if I get a different vaccine product for my second dose?
  • Every effort should be made to make sure your second dose is the same vaccine product as the first dose. Studies have shown that the vaccines are safe and work well when the same vaccine product is used for both doses. 
  • If, for some reason, you receive a different product for your second dose, you do not need to repeat the vaccination again with additional doses.
     


 

Vaccine side effects

What are the side effects of the vaccines? 
  • You may experience mild to moderate side effects after receiving the vaccine. Side effects typically go away on their own after a few days. The most commonly reported side effects are: 
    • Pain, swelling, and redness at the injection site.
    • Pain, tenderness and swelling of the lymph nodes in the same arm of the injection.
    • Fatigue.
    • Headache.
    • Muscle pain.
    • Chills.
    • Joint pain.
    • Nausea/vomiting.
    • Fever.
  • Different people may experience different side effects, even if they receive the same vaccine. 
  • These symptoms are normal and show that your body’s immune system is responding to a vaccine. Other routine vaccines, like the flu vaccine, have similar side effects.
  • If you experience discomfort after the first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, it is very important that you still receive the second dose a few weeks later for full protection.
  • For in-depth information about the side effects of the vaccines, see the CDC’s report on the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna vaccine, and the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine

 

I heard about people getting dizzy or fainting after receiving a vaccine. Is feeling dizzy or lightheaded a common side effect? 
  • Some people have reported experiencing dizziness, lightheadedness, feeling faint, rapid breathing, and sweating symptoms immediately following COVID-19 vaccines in several states, including Colorado. 
  • On April 7, 11 people reported symptoms like these at the Dick’s Sporting Goods Community Vaccination Site in Colorado. EMS transported two of the patients to the hospital for observation, and treated the other nine people with juice and water. The two patients transported to the hospital were released from the emergency department and were not admitted. Vaccinations at the site were temporarily paused, then resumed after public health found no cause for concern.
  • Feeling anxious or faint can be common when receiving any vaccination or going through any kind of medical procedure, like a blood draw. When you go to your vaccine appointment, bring a beverage and a snack or a friend or family member to help offer some reassurance. Let clinical staff know if you are feeling faint, as they may need to put your feet up temporarily or give you something to drink. Learn more about fainting after vaccination from the CDC. 
  • CDC, FDA, and other federal partners will continue to monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines. 
  • Learn more about the safety of vaccines.  

 

When should I seek medical care because of side effects?
  • If you get a COVID-19 vaccine and you think you might be having a severe allergic reaction after leaving the vaccination site, seek immediate medical care by calling 911.
  • In most cases, discomfort from fever or pain after getting the vaccine is normal. Contact your doctor or health care provider:
    • If the redness or tenderness where you got the shot increases after 24 hours.
    • If your side effects are worrying you or do not seem to be going away after a few days.

 

Are the side effects worse after the second or third dose?
  • The side effects after the second or third dose of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine might be more intense or cause more discomfort than side effects after the first dose. In some cases, the side effects may be bad enough to interfere with your work and other normal daily activities for a day or two. 
  • Because the body has already responded to the vaccine, the second or third dose may cause a stronger immune response in your body. These side effects are expected and show that your body is continuing to build immunity. 
  • Under Colorado’s Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA), you are entitled to paid sick leave from your employer to recover from side effects. 
  • If you are experiencing more intense side effects, stay well hydrated, rest, and consider  over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen or ibuprofen (if they are normally safe for you to take). Side effects are proof that your body is building immunity in response to the vaccine and will typically go away on their own within a day or two. 
  • Even if you experience discomfort from the vaccine, it is important that you receive both doses for full protection.

 

If I have side effects like fever and chills after getting the vaccine, does that mean I am contagious? Do I need to isolate?
  • Side effects from the vaccine typically occur one to two days after receiving the vaccine and can include fever, chills, headache, and fatigue. If you experience the expected side effects within one or two days of receiving a vaccine, it likely means that you are not contagious and do not need to isolate. 
  • The vaccines do not contain the virus that causes COVID-19 disease. A COVID-19 vaccine can’t give you COVID-19. 
  • Cough, shortness of breath, nasal congestion, sore throat, or loss of taste or smell are not recognized side effects of the vaccine and may be signs of COVID-19 infection (or another infection). If you feel any of these symptoms, begin isolating and get tested for COVID-19 as soon as you can.

 

Will getting vaccinated cause me to test positive for COVID-19?
  • No. Getting vaccinated won’t give you a positive test result. If you test positive shortly after being vaccinated, it’s likely that you caught COVID-19 before you were able to build immunity from the vaccine. Follow instructions on how to isolate until you feel better.

If I don't have side effects after getting a vaccine, is it still working?
  • Yes. Different people will respond differently to the vaccines. While many people will have side effects, some people will not. Even if you do not get side effects, the vaccine is likely working.

 

Can the vaccine cause an allergic reaction?
  • Although it is rare, the COVID-19 vaccines may cause mild allergic reactions in some people, like itching or rash. In extremely rare cases, some people may have a severe allergic reaction (e.g. anaphylaxis). If this occurs, vaccination providers will effectively and immediately treat the reaction.
  • The health care provider administering your vaccine will monitor you for any allergic reactions you may have after getting vaccinated. They will watch you for at least 15 minutes after the injection (or for 30 minutes if you have a history of anaphylaxis or if you have had an immediate allergic reaction of any severity to a vaccine or injectable therapy). 
  • If you had a reaction following a vaccination, contact your health care provider. You can also submit a report to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).
  • For more information, see CDC: What to Do If You Have an Allergic Reaction after Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine.

 

Should I get vaccinated if I’ve had an allergic reaction to a vaccine in the past?
  • People with a history of severe allergic reactions to any ingredient of a COVID-19 vaccine should not receive that vaccine. For a full list of ingredients, please see each vaccine’s fact sheet (Moderna, Pfizer, or Janssen (Johnson & Johnson)). None of the vaccines contain eggs, preservatives, or latex. 
  • Additionally, people who have had an immediate allergic reaction (within seconds or minutes) of any severity to previous doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, its components, or to polysorbate should not receive additional doses.  
  • People who have had severe allergic reactions to other vaccines or injectable therapies in the past should use caution and talk with their health care provider before deciding whether to get vaccinated. 
  • People with a history of severe allergic reactions unrelated to any vaccine or injectable therapy may get the COVID-19 vaccine. 

 

What if I am injured by the vaccine? Will I have to pay my own medical bills? 
  • If you get a serious physical injury as a direct result of the COVID-19 vaccine, you can file a claim for medical expenses, lost employment income, and survivor death benefits with the Countermeasure Injury Compensation Program (CICP).
  • You do not need to be a U.S. citizen to file a claim or receive benefits from the CICP if you qualify. 

 

What can I do if I can’t afford to take off work to get the vaccine or recover from side effects? 
  • Under Colorado’s Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA), you are entitled to paid sick leave from your employer. Among other situations, the law requires employers to provide paid leave for employees who have an illness, injury, or health condition that prevents them from working. Paid sick leave must also be available if the employee is getting preventative care such as a vaccination. 
  • During a public health emergency, all employers, regardless of the size of the company, must immediately provide each employee additional paid leave. For example, employees who normally work 40 or more hours a week are entitled to 80 hours of paid sick leave. 
  • For more information about HFWA, please visit the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment’s website

 

Are there any serious side effects of receiving the COVID-19 vaccine?
  • Serious side effects (also known as adverse events) are extremely rare. The federal government takes all reports of vaccine adverse events seriously. 
  • CDC uses many vaccine safety monitoring systems, including the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), to watch for adverse events after vaccination. VAERS is useful for quickly detecting unusual or unexpected patterns of adverse event reporting that might signal a possible safety problem with a vaccine. 
  • VAERS accepts reports of any adverse event following vaccination, even if it is not clear that the vaccine caused a serious side effect. 

 

What serious side effects have been reported for the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine?
  • The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is safe and effective in preventing COVID-19, and the benefits greatly outweigh the risks.
  • Serious side effects are extremely rare. There may be increased, but still rare, risks of an abnormal blood clotting disorder called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) in women under age 50 or a nerve disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) in men over age 50.
  • CDPHE has sent information to health care providers to inform them about how to identify and treat TTS and GBS in the very rare case they were to occur. 
  • Health care providers administering the vaccine and vaccine recipients or caregivers should review the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine Fact Sheet for Healthcare Providers Administering Vaccine (Vaccination Providers) and Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers, which have been revised to include information about the risk of these extremely rare syndromes.
  • People who have received the Janssen vaccine who develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after vaccination should contact their health care provider.

 

Can someone else who received a COVID-19 vaccine shed any of the vaccine components and affect my menstrual cycle?
  • No. Your menstrual cycle cannot be affected by being near someone who received a COVID-19 vaccine. Individuals who have received a COVID-19 vaccine cannot shed any parts of the vaccine. 
  • Many things can affect menstrual cycles, including stress, changes in monthly schedule, problems with sleep, and changes in diet or exercise. Infections may also affect the menstrual cycle.


 

Pregnancy, fertility, and COVID-19 vaccines

Can I get the vaccine if I am pregnant?
  • Yes. The best way to protect yourself and your baby from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated. 
  • There is now more evidence than ever to show that COVID-19 vaccines are safe for pregnant people. The vaccines help keep you from getting sick. They won’t harm your baby.
  • For more information about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy, visit the CDC’s website.
  • Additional actions you can take to protect yourself include wearing a mask in public, keeping your distance from people who don’t live with you, washing your hands frequently, and limiting gatherings. These precautions are especially important if you live in an area where COVID-19 is spreading widely.

 

Can I get the vaccine if I am breastfeeding?
  • Yes. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine recommends that lactating people who get the vaccine continue breastfeeding their babies after being vaccinated. 
  • Breast milk contains antibodies and other components that can boost babies’ immune systems and protect babies from getting sick. Research has shown that COVID-19 antibodies are present in breast milk. It is believed that antibodies created after vaccination may also transfer into breast milk and could provide some protection to the baby.
  • For more information about COVID-19 vaccines and pregnancy, see CDPHE’s Pregnancy and breastfeeding FAQ.

Can I get a COVID-19 vaccine if I would like to have a baby one day?
  • Yes. If you or your partner are trying to become pregnant now or want to have a child in the future, you can get a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • There is currently no evidence that COVID-19 vaccination causes any problems with pregnancy, including the development of the placenta. In addition, there is no evidence that fertility problems are a side effect of any vaccine, including COVID-19 vaccines. People who have received COVID-19 vaccines have gone on to get pregnant and have healthy babies.
  • A recent small study looked at sperm characteristics, like quantity and movement, before and after vaccination in 45 healthy men. Researchers found no significant changes in sperm characteristics after vaccination.
  • Please talk with your doctor for more information if you have any concerns.
  • For more information, visit the CDC’s website COVID-19 Vaccines for People Who Would Like to Have a Baby.


 

Vaccines for children and teens

Can children get the vaccine?
  • Yes, children as young as 5 years old can get a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • The CDC has authorized Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for people who are age 5 and older.
  • The Moderna and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccines are authorized for adults 18 and up. 
  • For more information, visit CDPHE’s Vaccines for children and teens webpage.

 

How can I make an appointment for my 5- to 11-year-old to get a COVID-19 vaccine?

 

Is it safe for children to get a COVID-19 vaccine?
  • Yes. Clinical trials and real-world data show that it is safe for children age 5 to 17 years to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. 
  • Millions of children age 12 to 17 years have already safely been vaccinated against COVID-19, and more than 2,000 children age 5 to 11 years have safely received a vaccine in a clinical trial.
  • For more information, visit the CDC’s webpage COVID-19 Vaccines for Children and Teens

 

How well does the vaccine work for children? 
  • The vaccine works very well to prevent infection, serious illness, and death in children.
  • Pfizer’s clinical trials showed that the vaccine for children age 12 to 15 years was 100% effective in preventing COVID-19 infection. (Sixteen- and 17-year-olds volunteered with adults in the initial clinical trials, which showed the vaccine to be about 95% effective.) 
  • The vaccine for children age 5 to 11 years showed to be about 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 infection. 
  • Both vaccines were 100% effective in preventing severe disease and death.

Do children get the same type of vaccine as adults?
  • Children age 12 to 17 years get the same kind of Pfizer vaccine as adults. 
  • Children age 5 to 11 years will get a smaller dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. This vaccine is one third of the dose of the Pfizer vaccine used for teens and adults.

 

Do children need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian at their vaccine appointments?
  • The state of Colorado does not require minors to be accompanied as long as parental consent is collected and shared prior to the appointment. This can be done through Colorado’s COVID-19 Vaccine Screening and Administration Form (view in Spanish) or through the vaccine provider’s online scheduling system. The provider may also obtain consent by phone and document it in the patient’s record.
  • Some vaccine providers may require children age 12 to 17 to have a parent or guardian with them at their appointment. We recommend calling your provider ahead of time to check whether they require parental accompaniment.

 

What are the side effects of the vaccine for children? 
  • The side effects in children are similar to the side effects experienced by adults. They can include tiredness, headache, soreness, chills, and fever. 
  • In clinical trials, children age 5 to 11 years tended to have milder side effects than teens and adults. 
  • Most side effects are mild and go away on their own after a day or two.

 

Will my child need two doses of the vaccine? 

Yes. Be sure to schedule your child’s second dose 21 days or three weeks after the first dose.
 


 

Health concerns and the vaccine

Can I get the vaccine if I am immunocompromised?
  • Yes. Immunocompromised people may receive a COVID-19 vaccine if they have no contraindications or reason to believe that getting the vaccine would be harmful to them. Talk to your health care provider if you have additional questions.
  • People who have a moderately to severely compromised immune system may benefit from an additional dose of an mRNA vaccine to make sure they have enough protection against COVID-19. Studies show that some people who are immunocompromised don’t build adequate levels of protection after receiving two doses of mRNA vaccines.
  • More information can be found at CDC’s COVID-19 Vaccines for Moderately to Severely Immunocompromised People
  • None of the currently available vaccines contains the virus that causes COVID-19. A COVID-19 vaccine cannot give you COVID-19.

 

Can I donate blood if I’ve received a COVID-19 vaccine?
  • Yes. According to the American Red Cross and Vitalant, you can donate blood if you’ve received a COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Pfizer, Modern, Janssen/J&J, Novavax, or AstraZeneca. You must be symptom-free and fever-free to donate blood. 
  • Check with your local blood center for additional information.

 

Do some people get blood clots after being vaccinated?
  • While it’s extremely rare, some people have developed a condition that leads to blood clots with low platelets after getting vaccinated with the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine.
  • This condition is called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, or TTS. 
  • Women under age 50 are at higher risk of TTS after being vaccinated with the Janssen vaccine compared to other people. However, this risk is still extremely low. This condition has only been reported in a few people out of every million doses of the Janssen vaccine. Scientists reviewed these reports and decided that the benefits of the vaccine are greater than the risk.
  • Women younger than 50 years old especially should be aware of the rare but increased risk of this adverse event. This risk has not been seen in other available COVID-19 vaccines.
  • CDPHE has sent information to health care providers about how to identify and treat TTS.
  • If you get a severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks of getting vaccinated with the Janssen vaccine, seek medical care immediately.
  • For more information about TTS and the Janssen vaccine, visit CDC’s website

Do some people get nervous system disorders after getting vaccinated?
  • While it’s extremely rare, some people may have had a nervous system disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) after being vaccinated with the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine. CDC and FDA are monitoring reports of this condition after vaccination.
  • GBS is a rare disorder where the body’s immune system damages nerve cells, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. Most people fully recover from GBS, but some have permanent nerve damage.
  • Men over age 50 are at higher risk of getting GBS after being vaccinated with the Janssen vaccine compared to other people. However, this risk is still very low. 
  • Scientists reviewed these reports and decided that the benefits of the vaccine are greater than the risk.
  • For more information about GBS and the Janssen vaccine, visit CDC’s website.

 

Do younger people get heart symptoms after getting vaccinated?
  • It’s possible, but extremely rare, for younger people to get conditions called myocarditis and pericarditis after COVID-19 vaccination. 
  • Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle, and pericarditis is inflammation of the outer lining of the heart. In both cases, the body’s immune system causes inflammation in response to an infection or another trigger.
  • Very few people get myocarditis or pericarditis after vaccination, and most cases of these conditions are mild. People often recover on their own or with minimal treatment. 
  • These cases have occurred after mRNA COVID-19 vaccination (Pfizer or Moderna), especially in male adolescents and young adults. They occur more often after the second dose and usually within several days after vaccination.
  • Compared to the very low risks of myocarditis and pericarditis after vaccination, people who are infected with COVID-19 are much more likely to develop these conditions. The conditions may be more severe in people who get infected as well. 
  • Scientists have reviewed reports of these conditions and decided that the benefits of the vaccine are greater than the risks. CDPHE and CDC continue to recommend COVID-19 vaccination for everyone age 512 and older.
  • For more information about heart symptoms after vaccination, visit CDC’s website.


 

How COVID-19 vaccines work

Can a COVID-19 vaccine make me sick with COVID-19?
  • No. None of the currently authorized vaccines contain the virus that causes COVID-19 disease. All currently authorized vaccines are inactivated. The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine contains a modified adenovirus, a different, harmless virus, but this virus cannot replicate itself or make you sick.

 

What’s the difference between an mRNA vaccine and a viral vector vaccine?
  • Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines are mRNA vaccines. Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is a viral vector vaccine. Both types of vaccines work in similar ways, but there are a few differences between them.
  • Both types of COVID-19 vaccines teach your body how to make spike proteins like the ones that cover the COVID-19 virus. Your body learns how to fight the spike protein without having to fight off the full virus. If you are exposed to COVID-19 after vaccination, your body will recognize the spike proteins and remember how to fight them before the virus makes you sick.
  • While all COVID-19 vaccines contain instructions for how to make spike proteins, these instructions are written in different ways. Viral vector vaccines, like the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine, use a piece of double-stranded DNA to teach your body how to fight COVID-19. mRNA vaccines, like the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, use single-stranded mRNA. The goal of every vaccine is the same -- they just use a different strategy to achieve that goal.
  • Janssen’s (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine is more durable than either of the authorized mRNA vaccines. It can be stored for up to three months at normal refrigeration temperatures (36–46°F or 2–8°C).
  • The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine only requires one dose. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two doses.

 

How do mRNA vaccines work? 
  • The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are both mRNA vaccines. These vaccines help our bodies build an immune response to the COVID-19 virus. The mRNA vaccines use temporary genetic code called mRNA to teach our cells how to make a harmless spike protein that is unique to the virus that causes COVID-19. After our cells temporarily make copies of the protein, our immune system recognizes that the protein should not be in our body and builds antibodies to remember how to fight the virus if we are infected in the future. 
  • An antibody is a protein produced by your immune system that can recognize a specific type of virus in your body. When you get exposed, your body’s antibodies are able to recognize proteins on the surface of the COVID-19 virus to attack and stop it from replicating in your body.
  • For a visual explanation of how mRNA vaccines work, watch Stat’s video “What are mRNA vaccines?”
  • To learn more, visit CDC’s Understanding How COVID-19 Vaccines Work

 

How do viral vector vaccines work?
  • The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine is a viral vector vaccine. Like mRNA vaccines, viral vector vaccines help our bodies build an immune response to the COVID-19 virus. Viral vector vaccines temporarily teach our cells how to make a harmless spike protein that is unique to the virus that causes COVID-19. 
  • While mRNA vaccines use single-stranded genetic code called mRNA to write down instructions for this protein, viral vector vaccines use double-stranded DNA. Scientists put this DNA into a different virus called Adenovirus 26. Adenoviruses are common viruses that typically cause colds or flu-like symptoms. The Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine uses a modified adenovirus that can give your cells instructions about how to make spike proteins. This adenovirus can’t make you sick.
  • After our cells temporarily make copies of the protein, our immune system recognizes that the protein should not be in our body and builds antibodies to remember how to fight the virus if we are exposed in the future. 
  • An antibody is a protein produced by your immune system that can recognize a specific type of virus in your body. When you get exposed, your body’s antibodies are able to recognize proteins on the surface of the COVID-19 virus to attack and stop it from replicating in your body.
  • To learn more, visit CDC’s Understanding Viral Vector COVID-19 Vaccines.

Can COVID-19 vaccines change my genes? 
  • No. None of the COVID-19 vaccines can change your body’s genes.
  • While COVID-19 vaccines use temporary genetic code to teach your body how to fight COVID-19, that genetic code does not stay in your body after your immune system has learned how to protect you from the virus.

 

Why do the different vaccines have different effectiveness rates? Does a lower effectiveness rate mean a vaccine doesn’t work as well?
  • Directly comparing vaccine effectiveness rates can be difficult. The clinical trials for each one were designed differently. They measured results in different ways and in different populations at different times.
    • Pfizer’s vaccine showed to be about 95% effective at preventing the onset of any COVID-19 symptoms after seven days. Moderna’s vaccine showed a 94% effectiveness rate at 14 days. 
    • Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) has reported that, globally, its vaccine is 66% effective at preventing moderate to severe/critical COVID-19 symptoms after 28 days. The Janssen trial also concluded that the vaccine is about 86% effective at preventing severe or critical COVID-19 illness in U.S. participants after 28 days. 
  • All three vaccines work very well to prevent you from getting very sick from COVID-19. 

 

Do any of the vaccines contain harmful ingredients?
  • Today’s vaccines use only the ingredients they need to be as safe and effective as possible. Each ingredient in a vaccine serves a specific purpose: provide immunity (protection) and keep the vaccine safe and long-lasting.
  • All vaccines contain antigens or elements that trigger the production of antigens. Antigens make vaccines work. They help the body create the immune response needed to protect against infection. Antigens come in several forms. The form used in a vaccine is chosen because studies show it is the best way to protect against a particular infection. 
  • Other ingredients in vaccines may include preservatives, to keep germs out; adjuvants, to help boost the immune response to the vaccine; and additives, which help the vaccine stay effective while being stored. Each ingredient has a specific function and has been rigorously studied. These ingredients are safe for humans in the amounts used in vaccines.
  • For a full list of ingredients, please see each vaccine’s fact sheet (Moderna, Pfizer, or Janssen). 

 

Do any of the vaccines contain ingredients that would be prohibited by my faith?
  • Janssen’s (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine includes ethanol, a form of alcohol, as an inactive ingredient.
  • None of the currently authorized vaccines contain human cells or tissue. However, some human cell lines were used in the production of Janssen’s vaccine. Pfizer and Moderna used human cell lines to test their vaccines.
    • Human cell lines are sometimes used in the early stages of vaccine development because viruses from which those vaccines are made need living cells to reproduce. These cell lines originally came from fetal tissue more than 30 years ago. None of the original tissue remains today: all descended cells are grown in labs. No new fetal tissue is required in the ongoing development and production of vaccines.
    • As with all viral vector vaccines, multiple purification steps ensure that cells are not in the final vaccine product.
    • For more information about human cell lines, please see the College of Physicians of Philadelphia’s webpage Human Cell Strains in Vaccine Development.
  • For a full list of ingredients, please see each vaccine’s fact sheet (Moderna, or Pfizer, or Janssen). 
  • If you have ethical concerns about the vaccines, we encourage you to talk to your faith leaders about them.
     


 

Vaccine safety

For additional information, visit CDC's webpage on vaccine safety.

How do we know that the vaccines are safe?
  • All authorized COVID-19 vaccines are going through the most intense safety monitoring in U.S. history. 
  • Millions of people in the U.S. have safely received a vaccine and are now protected from COVID-19.
  • The FDA requires vaccines to go through a rigorous scientific process before they become available to the public. The COVID-19 vaccines are held to the same safety standards as other vaccines. Tens of thousands of people volunteered in scientific trials to help make sure the vaccines are safe and work well.

 

How were the vaccines developed so quickly? 
  • Because COVID-19 is a global emergency, medical researchers around the world worked as hard as they could to create vaccines that would save people’s lives.
  • In developing a vaccine for COVID-19, researchers had to work quickly, but not at the risk of anyone’s safety. Researchers did not cut any corners or skip any steps. Safety and effectiveness were the top priorities. 
  • The timeline for developing COVID-19 vaccines was possible for several reasons: 
    • Researchers relied on years of previous research in other viruses and vaccines to help develop COVID-19 vaccines. COVID-19 is similar in some ways to other viruses, so scientists already had some information about how the virus behaves and how to fight it. They didn’t have to start from scratch.
    • Everyone involved dedicated all their resources and time to developing a COVID-19 vaccine. This includes research institutions, government agencies, philanthropic organizations, and pharmaceutical companies. 
    • Many governments around the world, including the U.S. government, and private funders invested in the vaccine. This allowed pharmaceutical companies to focus on research right away. 
    • Because of the emergency presented by the pandemic, researchers developed the vaccines on parallel tracks, meaning that they completed the necessary steps at the same time or with some overlap. No steps were skipped in the process of developing the COVID-19 vaccines. 

 

Is it safe for children to get a COVID-19 vaccine?
  • Yes. Children age 5 to 17 are recommended to get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. 
  • Clinical trials showed that the Pfizer vaccine is safe and extremely effective in this age group. None of the youth volunteers in the trials got COVID-19 after receiving the Pfizer vaccine.
  • Side effects for children were about the same as for adults.
  • For more information, visit the CDC’s webpage COVID-19 Vaccines for Children and Teens.  

 

Who approves vaccines in the United States? 
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) licenses and approves the use of vaccines. Before the FDA approves a vaccine, the manufacturer must do rigorous research and testing to ensure the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness. The FDA independently reviews and verifies the information from these tests. It then decides whether the vaccine can be authorized and given to the public. 
  • In certain emergency situations, the FDA may issue an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to provide more timely access to critical medical products when there are no other options available. 

 

How are the vaccines tested? 
  • Vaccines must go through a detailed scientific evaluation before they can be submitted to the FDA for approval. Each phase of the evaluation includes three different clinical research studies. In the clinical research study or trial, people volunteer to be part of the study. Each clinical trial emphasizes safety of the vaccine on people. As the research moves through to the next phase, the group of volunteers becomes bigger to include more diversity in people and circumstances.
    • Phase 1 involves 20 to 100 healthy volunteers to evaluate safety and common side effects of the vaccine.
    • Phase 2 involves several hundred volunteers to gather information on safety, vaccine dosing, and ability to stimulate an immune response.
    • Phase 3 involves several thousand volunteers and a longer time frame than the earlier studies. Along with safety and side effects, most Phase 3 studies focus on efficacy -- how well the vaccine works in clinical trials -- and compare people who have received the vaccine to those who receive a placebo (a shot without the real vaccine).  During these studies, neither the participants nor the study managers know who received the vaccine and who received the placebo until the end of the study. This phase provides the firmest scientific evidence possible showing the difference between people who have been vaccinated and people who have not been vaccinated for both safety and effectiveness.

 

Who are the volunteers in vaccine trials? 
  • People volunteer to take part in clinical research studies. All study volunteers must go through a process called informed consent that ensures they understand all of the risks and benefits of being in a study. Those volunteers are reminded that they may leave a study at any time without losing any of their rights or benefits. 
  • Each clinical trial emphasizes the safety of the vaccine on people. As the research moves through to the next phase, the group of volunteers becomes bigger to include more diversity in people and circumstances. 
  • A diverse group of people volunteered to participate in every phase of the clinical trials, including populations disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 due to generations of systemic inequities. For example, in Pfizer’s clinical trials, about 42% of volunteers identified as Asian, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino/a, or Native American. About 37% of volunteers for Moderna’s trials identified as Asian, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino/a, or other.

What happens after clinical trials are finished?
  • Once the clinical trials show that the vaccine is safe and effective, the manufacturer applies to the FDA to license the vaccine so that the general population can receive it. 
  • The FDA looks at all of the data from the trials using rigorous protocols and procedures. The vaccine is not authorized or approved until the FDA can make sure the vaccine is safe and effective.
  • In emergencies, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, vaccines can be authorized through an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). This helps the vaccine get to people who need it faster. After the vaccine is authorized, the manufacturer keeps gathering data on how safe it is and how well it works.

 

Who else reviews the safety and effectiveness data from the clinical trials? 
  • For each vaccine authorized by the FDA, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) carefully reviews all available data about the vaccine from clinical trials and other studies and makes recommendations for vaccine use in the general public. Recommendations include groups that should and should not receive the vaccine, as well as the timing, volume, number, and spacing of doses in a vaccine series. 
  • The ACIP is an independent advisory committee that provides guidance on the best use of vaccines to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). 
  • Once ACIP recommendations have been reviewed and approved by the CDC and HHS, they are published in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). The MMWR publication represents the final and official CDC recommendations for immunization of the U.S. population.

 

How is vaccine safety monitored once the vaccine is approved or authorized? 
  • The FDA and CDC closely monitor vaccine safety after the public begins using the vaccine. Both agencies have systems in place to keep an eye on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines. Learn more about the different vaccine safety monitoring systems: 
    • CDC’s V-safe is a new smartphone-based, after-vaccination health checker for people who receive COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccine recipients can opt-in to receive text messages and web surveys from CDC on how to report health problems following COVID-19 vaccination. The system will also provide telephone follow-up to anyone who reports medically significant adverse events. The report will be submitted to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) while keeping patient identity confidential. V-safe is now available in English, Korean, simplified Chinese, Spanish, and Vietnamese. 
    • Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) - VAERS is an early-warning system that collects and analyzes reports of any problems that happen after vaccination. Anyone can submit a report, including parents, patients, and health care professionals.
    • Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) - VSD is a collaboration between CDC and several health care organizations to monitor vaccine safety. The system analyzes healthcare information for over 24 million people to conduct studies about rare and serious adverse events after immunization. 
    • Post-licensure Rapid Immunization Safety Monitoring (PRISM) - PRISM is the FDA’s immunization safety monitoring program. PRISM actively monitors the safety of medical products using electronic health information from over 190 million people. 
    • Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment Project (CISA) - CISA is a collaboration between CDC and seven medical research centers to answer complex safety questions. CISA conducts clinical research studies to further understand vaccine safety and recommend prevention strategies for adverse events following immunization.
  • Vaccine recommendations may change if safety monitoring reveals new information about vaccine risks, such as a new serious side effect. The CDC, with the help of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, will send safety alerts to health care providers. If necessary, the federal government may remove a vaccine from the market.

 

Can the vaccines cause death? 
  • COVID-19 is much more likely to cause death than any COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC, FDA, and CDPHE recommend getting vaccinated as the best way to protect yourself from COVID-19.
  • A review of available clinical information, including death certificates, autopsy, and medical records, has not established a causal link between deaths and COVID-19 vaccines. 
  • CDC uses the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) to closely monitor reports of death following COVID-19 vaccination. More than 396 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the United States from December 14, 2020, through October 4, 2021. During this time, VAERS received 8,390 reports of death (0.0021%) among people who received a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Reports of death after vaccination do not necessarily mean the vaccine caused the death. There are deaths every day from a variety of causes.
  • CDC follows up on any report of death to ask for more information. They use this information to learn more about what happened and to find out whether the death had something to do with the vaccine.
  • Reports show that the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine may be associated with an extremely rare but serious kind of blood clot (called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome or TTS), which in very few cases has resulted in death.
  • These types of blood clots are extremely rare. As of September 29, 2021, more than 14.9 million doses of the J&J/Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine have been given in the United States. CDC and FDA identified 47 confirmed reports of people who got the Janssen vaccine and later developed TTS. For women 50 years and older and men of all ages, these types of blood clots are even more rare. Most people who developed this very rare type of blood clot recovered. 
  • CDC, FDA, and other federal partners will continue to monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines. Find out more on CDC’s Selected Adverse Events Reported after COVID-19 Vaccination


 

COVID-19 immunity and protecting others after getting the vaccine

When will I be protected after I get the vaccine?
  • It takes two weeks after you’ve received your last required dose for your body to fully  protect itself against illness.

 

Does the vaccine protect against all strains of COVID-19? 
  • Yes. All authorized COVID-19 vaccines work well to protect you from getting very sick, needing to be hospitalized, or dying from COVID-19.
  • People who are fully vaccinated may become infected with COVID-19. However, fully vaccinated people are much more likely to have mild cases of COVID-19 than unvaccinated people.
  • Learn more about COVID-19 variants

 

Isn’t natural immunity from having COVID-19 better than getting a vaccine?
  • In order to get natural immunity, you would have to become infected with COVID-19, which can come with many serious risks and complications. Getting the vaccine gives you protection without the risks of getting sick.
  • Natural immunity varies depending on the disease, and it varies from person to person. Because this virus is new, we don’t know how long natural immunity might last. Some early evidence—based on a small sample size of people—seems to suggest that natural immunity may only last a few months in some people.

 

If I get vaccinated, is it possible for me to still get a milder form of COVID-19 than if I hadn’t been vaccinated?
  • Yes. Because the vaccines are not 100% effective, some people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 may still get sick. However, the risk of getting sick -- especially severely sick -- is much lower if you are vaccinated.
  • Getting a COVID-19 vaccine will likely keep you from getting seriously ill, and may prevent any symptoms from developing, even if you do get COVID-19.
  • For more information about what you can do after vaccination, see the CDC’s When You’ve Been Fully Vaccinated: How to Protect Yourself and Others.

 

Why should I get vaccinated if I might get sick anyway?
  • While no vaccine is 100% effective, getting vaccinated greatly reduces your risk of COVID-19.
  • If you do get sick after being vaccinated, it is much less likely that your symptoms will be severe or that you will need to be hospitalized.The vaccines also greatly reduce the risk of death from COVID-19.
  • Based on the data, scientists believe that vaccinated people are much less likely to spread COVID-19 than unvaccinated people. Getting vaccinated doesn’t just protect you, but helps keep your family and community healthy as well.

 

What is community/herd immunity? How many people need to get vaccinated to develop community immunity from COVID-19? 
  • Community (or herd) immunity means that enough people have developed immunity to a disease (either naturally or through vaccination) that there is no longer a risk of community transmission or outbreaks.
  • Until we better understand COVID-19 immunity and how vaccination affects transmissibility, we won’t know the percent of people needed for community immunity.

Do I need to quarantine after I have been fully vaccinated? 
  • If you are fully vaccinated and you have been exposed to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, you should wear a mask in public indoor spaces for 14 days after your exposure. You should also get a COVID-19 test three to five days after exposure. You can stop wearing a mask if you test negative.
  • If it has been less than two weeks since your final dose of the vaccine, you should quarantine if you think you have been exposed to COVID-19.
  • Whether or not you are in quarantine, watch for symptoms in the 14 days after exposure and get tested if you start to develop symptoms. If you test positive, you will need to isolate
  • Note that PCR test results will not be affected by the vaccine. A positive PCR test generally indicates recent COVID-19 infection.   

 

Do I need to isolate if I develop COVID-19-like symptoms after I have been fully vaccinated?
  • Yes. If you develop COVID-19 symptoms at any time after being fully vaccinated, you should isolate and contact your health care provider for instructions on whether to be tested for COVID-19 or other infections.
  • If you experience the expected side effects after receiving a vaccine, it likely means that you are not contagious and do not need to isolate. Side effects typically occur one to two days after receiving the vaccine and can include fever, chills, headache, and fatigue.
  • Cough, shortness of breath, nasal congestion, sore throat, or loss of taste or smell are not recognized side effects of the vaccine and may be signs of COVID-19 infection (or another infection). 
  • Learn more about vaccine side effects in this FAQ.

 

Do I need to quarantine if I’ve received only one dose of a vaccine that requires two doses?
  • Yes, you should quarantine if you think you were exposed between doses of Pfizer or Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines. If necessary, reschedule your second dose for after the quarantine period has ended. 

 

Do I need to isolate if I develop COVID-19-like symptoms after getting one dose of a vaccine that requires two doses?
  • Yes. If you develop COVID-19 symptoms between doses of a two-dose vaccine, you should isolate and contact your health care provider for instructions on whether to be tested for COVID-19 or other infections.
  • If you test positive for COVID-19, you may choose to get the second dose of your vaccine later as long as you have recovered from your infection and finished your isolation period.


 

Vaccine laws and regulations

Will I be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine?
  • You may be required as a condition of employment for some employers. But generally, employment aside, no, you aren’t required to get vaccinated at this time. 

 

Can a business check my vaccination status before allowing me onto the property?
  • Yes. The federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) does not apply to businesses like retail stores and restaurants because these businesses do not engage in any form of health care activity. It is not a violation of any federal or state law for a business to ask customers about their vaccination status. Customers may voluntarily share this information with a business if they choose to do so. A business may require public health measures (e.g. mask-wearing) if a customer chooses not to share their vaccination status.  
  • The state public health department, which maintains the Colorado Immunization Information System (CIIS), does not share a person’s protected health information, such as their COVID-19 vaccination status, with any business. Individuals may choose whether to share their vaccination status with others.

 

How will I know if others are vaccinated without compromising their personal health information?
  • Every Coloradan’s immunization records are confidential, personal medical information that will never be shared publicly. The state will report information on the total number of residents who have been vaccinated in Colorado, but this data will not be attached to any individual’s personally identifying information.
  • The state health department maintains the Colorado Immunization Information System (CIIS), a confidential, population-based, secure computerized system that collects and consolidates individual-level vaccine and exemption data for Coloradans of all ages from a variety of sources.
  • Under Colorado law, you can choose to remove your immunization information from CIIS at any time. This is called an opt-out.

Can I get an exemption from my employer’s vaccine mandate? 

 

Can public and private colleges and universities mandate COVID-19 vaccination for students, faculty and/or staff? 
  • Yes, they can. Questions regarding COVID-19 vaccination requirements for students, faculty and/or staff should be directed to the specific college or university. 

 

What should I do if I lose my vaccine card?


 

Emergency Use Authorization

I heard several COVID-19 vaccines were approved for Emergency Use Authorization. What does that mean? 
  • In certain emergency situations, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may issue an Emergency Use Authorization to provide more timely access to critical medicines when there are no other options available. An Emergency Use Authorization permits the FDA to allow medical products that have met certain criteria, to treat, diagnose, or prevent serious or life-threatening diseases to be used.
  • Watch this short video from the FDA about Emergency Use Authorization.

 

Why do EUAs exist?
  • EUAs were initially introduced in 2004 to prepare for bioterrorism attacks. Under an EUA, the government is able to authorize medical treatments and products in the event of a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) attack.

 

Is it common for vaccines to be authorized under an EUA? 
  • Besides the currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines, the only vaccine that has been authorized under an EUA so far was an anthrax vaccine in 2005. This vaccine was given to certain military personnel who were at heightened risk of exposure to anthrax.

What is the criteria for an EUA? 
  • The FDA may issue an EUA for a medical product if it meets the following criteria:
    • The disease or CBRN agent in question can cause a serious or life-threatening illness or condition. 
    • There is reasonable belief, after looking at all the scientific evidence, that the product may be effective for its intended use. The phrase “may be effective” lowers the standards for scientific evidence typically required for FDA approvals.
    • The known and potential benefits outweigh the known and potential risks. The FDA will look at all available scientific evidence to determine the risk and benefits of a product. 
    • There is no adequate, approved, and available alternative to the product.

 

Besides the COVID-19 vaccines, when have EUAs been issued in the past?
  • Although not common, EUAs have been issued multiple times in the past for tests, treatments, and medical equipment.  
    • In 2009, EUAs were issued for diagnostic tests, personal protection equipment, and certain antiviral drugs during the H1N1 Swine Influenza pandemic.  
    • In 2013, EUAs were issued for diagnostic tests related to H7N9 influenza and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). 
    • Several EUAs have already been issued for some COVID-19 tests and treatments, for example the antiviral medication remdesivir (recently approved), convalescent plasma, and multiple COVID-19 tests.